1 casino reopening in Ala.; another debuts Tuesday

AP News
Posted: Dec 01, 2009 8:14 AM

An electronic bingo casino is planning to reopen and a new one is getting ready for its first customers as attorneys wage a legal battle over the popular machines.

Country Crossing at Dothan will open its doors to the public at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Spokesman Doug Rainer said the bingo hall, restaurants, recreational vehicle park and inn at the $87 million resort will be ready. The resort is promoting its 1,700 machines as legal games under new state Supreme Court standards.

The White Hall Resort and Entertainment Center near Montgomery shut down its 900 machines after the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling against the casino Nov. 13. That ruling said evidence indicated White Hall's machines "operate almost exactly like slot machines." The court set six criteria for legal bingo games, including having the numbers announced one by one and having players mark their cards.

Joe Espy, attorney for the company that supplies White Hall's machines, said Monday the games are being revised and the business is preparing to reopen soon.

"It is our belief the machines can meet the criteria," said Espy, who represents Freedom Trail Ventures.

White Hall's attorneys are also asking the Alabama Supreme Court to reconsider its decision, Espy said.

The decision stemmed from a raid on White Hall by Gov. Bob Riley's Task Force on Illegal Gambling. During the raid on March 19, White Hall's sign along U.S. Highway 80 was flashing "Hot Slots." In a court fight with White Hall's operators, Riley and his task force called the games illegal slot machines.

The entertainment center, 20 miles west of Montgomery, continued to operate until the Supreme Court's ruling.

Riley's press secretary, Todd Stacy, said Monday the governor has not seen the machines being readied for Country Crossing's opening.

"As long as they are not doing anything illegal, they don't have anything to worry about," he said.

In Dothan, Sheriff Andy Hughes said he's taking "a wait and see attitude" about Country Crossing's games. He said one of his officers will watch a demonstration of the machines Tuesday morning before the gambling hall opens, but no one on his staff has the technical expertise to determine if the machines are legal or illegal.

The sheriff said he has had no conversations with the governor's task force about Country Crossing's games.

Eighteen Alabama cities and counties have approved laws allowing bingo. Most operate traditional paper games, but a few have electronic bingo casinos. The largest installation is Victoryland in Macon County with more than 6,000 games.